Defense opens in U.S. WikiLeaks trial, soldier shown as tech whiz
FORT MEADE, Maryland
FORT MEADE, Maryland (Reuters) - The U.S. soldier accused of the largest release of classified material in the country's history was regarded by his superiors as a "go-to guy" with strong computer skills but a tendency to jump to conclusions, a former supervisor testified on Monday.
Lawyers for Private First Class Bradley Manning began the defense phase of the trial of the former junior intelligence analyst by calling one of the officials who oversaw Manning during his deployment to Iraq.
"He was good. He was our best analyst by far when it came to developing products," Chief Warrant Officer 2 Joshua Ehresman testified in response to questions from defense lawyer David Coombs.
Under prosecution cross-examination, Ehresman said that although he gave Manning the top rating of "10" for preparing reports, he gave him only a "5" for his analysis of intelligence material since he tended to jump to conclusions.
Manning, 25, is charged with leaking more than 700,000 classified files, combat videos and diplomatic cables to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks while serving at Forward Operating Base Hammer east of Baghdad in 2009 and 2010. The charges include espionage, computer fraud and, most seriously, aiding the enemy by giving the militant Islamist organization al Qaeda access to U.S. intelligence through the Internet.
The prosecution rested last week after five weeks of testimony, some of it in closed session, at Fort Meade, home of the ultra-secret National Security Agency outside Washington.
Ehresman testified that there was no oversight at the Iraq outpost on installing executable files on the Army computers that had access to classified materials.
An executable file contains a program that is ready to be run or carried out. Manning is accused of installing one to allow high-speed downloading of more than 250,000 State Department files.
Manning, a native of Crescent, Oklahoma, was arrested in 2010 and could face life in prison without parole if convicted of aiding the enemy.
Coombs began the defense by offering as evidence a leaked video of a 2007 attack in Baghdad by an Apache helicopter gunship that killed a dozen people, including two Reuters staffers. The video was made by a camera on the gunship.
Coombs showed that a transcript of the video had been made public in a book, "The Good Soldiers," by Washington Post journalist David Finkel, before WikiLeaks published the material.
Coombs wanted to play only the part of the video that showed the attack on the civilians, but after prosecution objections the full 39-minute video was played.
The defense has said it might call up to 46 witnesses but has not released a full list. The prosecution called about 80 witnesses, far below the number it had listed, raising the prospect that the trial could conclude well before its August 23 scheduled end.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Scott Malone and John Wallace)
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